THERE are three key components to the Pioneer Generation Package announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.
These are: outpatient care, Medisave and MediShield Life, all of which will target various aspects of health care, from prevention to catastrophic illnesses.
The measures address two big worries in health-care costs: out-of-pocket payments and the increase in premiums when MediShield Life kicks in next year.
The package, which will benefit about 450,000 Singaporean pioneers, will be for life. The benefits will also not be differentiated by income, said DPM Tharman, who is also the Finance Minister.
This is for seniors who require outpatient treatment for common illnesses or chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Subsidies at specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics.
Higher subsidies will be given at specialist outpatient clinics (SOCs) for the lower- and middle-income groups, regardless of age.
The current SOC subsidy is 50 per cent. This will go up to 60 per cent for the middle-income group and 70 per cent for the lower-income.
On top of this, all in the pioneer generation will get another 50 per cent off their SOC bills.
This means all pioneers stand to get a 75 to 85 per cent subsidy for treatment at SOCs, regardless of their income. They will also get an additional 50 per cent off their subsidised bills at polyclinics.
The SOC and polyclinic subsidies for pioneers will kick in this September.
Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas).
Chas provides subsidised care at private general practitioners and dental clinics for lower- and middle-income Singaporeans, who have to meet certain income or housing value criteria.
It also subsidises screenings for some conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and colorectal cancer.
From next January, all pioneers will be placed on Chas, regardless of income or housing type.
Those who already have a Chas card will get additional subsidies, similar to the extra help they will get with SOC and polyclinic bills.
Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme.
Pioneers with moderate to severe disabilities – or their nominated caregivers – will get cash aid of $1,200 a year under this scheme from September.
To qualify, they should require hands-on help with at least three activities of daily living.
This assistance, which will be for life, is in addition to existing schemes for the disabled elderly like the Interim Disability Assistance Programme for the Elderly and ElderShield, which have maximum payout periods.
Annual top-ups will be given to the Medisave of pioneers, who tend to have less Medisave savings compared to younger Singaporeans.
The life-time top-ups will start this August and older groups will get a bigger sum.
The amounts range from $200 a year for those aged 65 to 69 this year to $800 for those 80 and older this year.
The top-up comes on top of the regular GST Voucher Medisave payouts for lower- and middle-income seniors.
Pioneers will also benefit from another Budget announcement which will allow elderly Singaporeans to use a portion of their Medisave more flexibly for a range of outpatient treatments.
MediShield Life subsidy
Recognising that many older Singaporeans do not have MediShield insurance, the Government will ensure all pioneers are covered by MediShield Life.
They will be insured for life and will receive a special subsidy for their MediShield Life premiums, which will increase with age.
Starting from 40 per cent of the premium at age 65, the subsidy will rise to 60 per cent of the premium at age 90.
For instance, said DPM Tharman, a 65-year-old today who lives to 85 would get an average subsidy of 50 per cent on his premiums over his lifetime.
The MediShield Life subsidies will kick in at the end of next year, when the enhanced national insurance plan is rolled out.
The Government intends to fully cover the MediShield Life premiums for those aged 80 and older this year through a combination of premium subsidies and Medisave top-ups, said DPM Tharman.
This will apply as well to those in this age group who are currently not covered by MediShield but will be placed on MediShield Life.
Younger pioneers – like those who are 70 this year – who are already on MediShield will pay only about half of their current premiums after the premium subsidies and Medisave top-ups kick in.
Younger pioneers not on MediShield now will be brought onto MediShield Life. They will still pay less than current premiums.
The Government intends to fully cover the MediShield Life premiums for those aged 80 and older this year through a combination of premium subsidies and Medisave top-ups, said DPM Tharman
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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